It’s not a leftist article at all, even if the title sounds like it. I will start with the Bible, from a different perspective because I have a tremendous amount of respect for its content and structure. It’s solid – every weak argument has been weeded out from the stories over the centuries. Whether you’re a believer or not, the Bible’s content is something to behold.
The principle of unequal distribution actually comes from it. Sometimes it is known as the Matthew principle (Matthew 25:29), derived from what might be the harshest statement ever attributed to Christ: “to those who have everything, more will be given; from those who have nothing, everything will be taken.”
To be clear – I am convinced that rules for life first develop in the society and then they are put together as God’s words, never the other way around.
It is unthinkable that Moses would descent from Mount Sinai with Ten Commandments that would surprise people waiting for him with their content. Instead, the people fully knew what to expect, because they lived the rules anyways and knew what works in life. God just put them in bullet points - that is all religion does. The tradition always comes first in the creation of things. Then tradition creates religion.
It could be that Moses said this when he came down – “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I got the number down from 15 to 10. The bad news is that adultery is still in.” We’ll never know.
So what message did Christ want to convey in his harsh sentence from Matthew’s gospel? There must have been one.
Here is my take on it.
What often happens in history is that a dedicated and aggressive minority takes control of the more passive majority. And the people with wealth to protect make amendments with the new rulers (think Nazi Germany). The regular guy pays the price at the end. Not much different with the Bolsheviks in Russia, really.
All it takes is a few strong-minded men and women convinced that the world is not marching right and they need to do something about it. There is very little difference between the capacity for mayhem and destruction and strength of character.
This is one of the most difficult lessons of life.
What Christ meant is not the material wealth; he was talking about the mental power. Let it sink in for a bit and see how it changes the context of what he said.
First, stating, “from those who have nothing, everything will be taken”, doesn’t make any sense in the material world. So he was clearly referring to the mind. What’s below nothing? You become a slave, or your mind does actually.
What he was really saying, in my opinion, is this:
“A strong mind creates more strength, while an unfocused one spirals down into chaos.”
So why in the world the distribution is always skewed?
Astonishingly few in the society make it big, and it goes for art, business and politics. Jesus’ take on the situation was absolutely right in this sense too.
How many classical composers are played in operas today? Four or five, out of hundreds of thousands? It’s true for every walk of life if you think about it – there are just a few famous painters, writers, rock bands, financiers or philosophers.
The problem is that many people have an obsession to somehow fix it and create a leveled playing field. This is a mistake in my view. It kills talent and creativity.
A university degree is supposed to make you dangerous in the marketplace. That’s the whole idea of it. And this doesn’t happen anymore. How are the kids supposed to benefit from going to universities?
In the ying and yang of the world, order and chaos are fighting it out throughout the history. It never stops, but it pays to understand that the chaos is only a step away, or it may surprise you badly one day.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler